IFJ Urges China to Abide by Free Media Commitments

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has urged Chinese authorities to allow free media access to enter and report from Lhasa, Tibet following unrest that has plagued the region since March 14.

Chinese authorities have been selectively allowing foreign journalists to enter Lhasa from March 26 only by arrangement with the provincial government.

The IFJ welcomes this slight increase in the freedom of movement of journalists following the Chinese Government’s orders to force journalists, including more than 15 Hong Kong journalists, to leave Tibet from March 17.

Despite this small positive step, the IFJ continues to condemn the unacceptable breach of both the ‘Service Guide for Foreign Media Coverage of the Beijing Olympic Games and the Prepatory Period’ and the ‘Measures for the Reporting Activities in the Mainland Conducted by the Journalists of Hong Kong and Macau during the Beijing Olympic Games and the Preparatory Period’, both issued by the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) with the support of the Chinese government.

According to regulations on reporting in both Guides, journalists need only to obtain prior consent from interviewees to interview organisations or individuals in China. These regulations were to come into force from 1 January 2007 and will expire on 17 October 2008.

Furthermore, the Guide for journalists of Hong Kong and Macau states, “If security issues arise when foreign journalists are covering public on-the-spot news, they can ask for help from the security or aid officials.” This suggests the Chinese authorities should assist rather then hinder journalists’ work.

The Foreign Journalists’ Guide states, “Foreign journalists can carry out reporting activities not only on the Beijing Olympic Games and the prepatory period, but also on politics, economy, society and culture of China.”

By denying freedom of movement of journalists and restricting media freedoms, the Chinese Government appears to be departing from the regulations in the Guides and limiting access to information. The selection of particular journalists and the apparent screening of news by the authorities is unacceptable and does not promote free and fair coverage.
“This selective arrangement is not good enough to ease international suspicions that the Chinese government is clouding certain facts regarding the recent unrest in Tibet,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.

“It would be in China’s interests, as the host of the 2008 Olympic Games, to promote press freedom and encourage transparency. The expulsion and screening of journalists appears to call into question China’s commitment to the free media regulations implemented in January 2007.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries